Will the province protect threatened species like the old growth specklebelly lichen? Well, it does not appear the BC NDP have any clear plans to protect endangered species. A couple of years ago Hon. George Heyman abandoned an initiative to develop biodiversity legislation, and if the response from the Minister of Forests is any indication we should not expect anything from this government any time soon.
Specklebelly lichen grow in old-growth trees in B.C.’s coastal rainforests. Eleven years ago, it was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as a species of special concern. This classification is in essence an AMBER alert, a signal that human activity is seriously threatening the survival of the species.
We don’t have our own species-at-risk legislation in British Columbia, but in 2017 our province signed a management plan allowing the federal government to take steps to ensure the survival of specklebelly lichen on the B.C.’s west coast. This plan commits to maintaining “all known extant populations of this species.” That means taking biodiversity into account in our forest management decisions.
Last fall, I asked the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources how she will protect biodiversity in forestry when it’s not included as an objective in the new forestry legislation. In the fall, the minister told me that believes biodiversity will be protected despite not being in the legislation. Now that the law has passed, can we count on it to provide valuable populations such as the specklebelly lichen?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I recognize his passion about the issue with the specklebelly, and I know my staff are working with him and his folks on that issue, because we know how important it is. We know how important it is to the people of the province. We know how important the biodiversity is to the people of the province and the ecosystem and the forests.
That is why we are committed to it. That is why we have committed to it. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that we are going to look at all 14 recommendations of the old growth strategic review, which include the incredible biodiversity of our forests — ensuring that we are saving that. We are moving forward with that and working every day to ensure that we are doing just that.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
Of course, the specklebelly lichen is just one of many species in our province that are endangered or have a threat of being extirpated. The minister committed in the debate last fall, at committee stage, that the amended forestry legislation would, indeed, protect biodiversity, even though biodiversity is not mentioned in the legislation.
We’re hearing from First Nations and scientists that endangered species in our province do not have the level of protections that are needed. The First Nations Leadership Council recently passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to enact a new law for biodiversity and ecosystem health. They have advocated directly to the minister and her colleague the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on this.
At the same time as that advocacy was ongoing, logging in TFL 46, where one of the few remaining extant populations of oldgrowth specklebelly lichen was being extirpated, was ongoing there. To the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, despite his colleague’s commitments last fall, we continue to see this government’s management practices threaten endangered species. Will the minister finally listen to First Nations, scientists and advocates and table our own species-at-risk legislation or biodiversity legislation?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I just want the member to know that one of the issues that we are dealing with, with First Nations is working together with them on issues of biodiversity and ecosystem health. We are working with them, when it comes to the old growth deferrals, by saying to them: what issues are in your traditional territories? Because that’s what’s really important: working with the rights and title holders on their traditional territory to ensure that we are looking at the biodiversity and the ecosystem health of those areas.
Those nations have come forward, and they have been very clear about areas that they want to make sure are deferred and areas they feel have already been deferred — and have already been working on those areas. We are really respecting and using and working with those nations to ensure that we can do that across the province, because we recognize the importance of this issue.